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Predator that roamed before dinosaurs discovered

Last Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 11:23

London: Palaeontologists have unearthed the remains of a fearsome fanged reptile which they believe roamed the Earth about 265 million years ago much before the age of
the dinosaurs.

The skull of the predator was dug up from a farm in the pampas plains of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, after the scientists spotted a bare patch on Google Maps and flew
over to investigate.

The dog-sized predator, the scientists think, lived about 40 million years before the dinosaurs and belonged to a family of reptiles that died out, leaving no descendants.

Named Pampaphoneus biccai, the beast was a dinocephalian which belonged to a family of anteosaurs that looked like dinosaurs but died out before the dinosaurs arrived, the Daily Mail reported.

It would have been cold-blooded, using its powerful jaws to rip chunks off prey while still alive, the scientists said.

Although Pampaphoneus biccai was found in modern-day Brazil, it came from a time when all the continents were fused together into one land mass called Pangaea, they said.
The family of creatures previously known to exist only in Russia, Kazakhstan, China and South Africa, but the latest discovery, described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the creature was more widespread.

Dr Juan Carlos Cisneros, a palaeontologist at the Federal University of Piaui in Teresina, Brazil, said: "This fossil is a member of the carnivorous Anteosaurs and provides evidence for Pangea-wide distribution of carnivorous dinocephalians."

Other dinocephalians included the South African Anteosaurus magnificus and the Russian Titanophoneus potens which were the largest -- more than 18ft long -- terrestrial
predators of the age known geologically as the Permian.

The researchers believe a barrier free connection would have allowed the beasts` migration from Laurasia and Gondwana -- the northernmost parts of Pangea -- to the southern tip of the continent.

At the end of the Permian period virtually all life became extinct in an environmental catastrophe of a magnitude never seen before or since.

All over the world complex ecosystems were destroyed with only five per cent of species surviving what is now believed to be massive and prolonged volcanic eruptions that lasted for 500,000 years.


First Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 11:23

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